How to stop procrastinating. It’s the evil little monkey on every creative person’s back. Holding you back, pulling your hair, whispering bitter nothings in your ear. You know what I mean? We creatives are the absolute worst at putting things off. Or maybe we’re the best? And the truth is, I’m as guilty as anyone. I was supposed to write this blog during a week away in Hervey Bay. I envisioned myself relaxing on the balcony, drinking wine, and tapping away on my laptop, letting all my creativity energy out. The reality however, was much different. Oh, I was drinking wine, but instead I found myself sucked into the vortex of procrastination, AKA Netflix, Friends: The Reunion and shopping.
By the way, how awesome was the Friends reunion? I could NOT stop laughing and it totally reinforced my girl crush on Lisa Kudrow. And Matt Le Blanc was awesome! He’s officially now my favourite male Friend. If you’ve watched it, leave your thoughts on the reunion in the comments below. Who’s your favourite Friend and why?
Gah, here I go again, procrastinating.
I blame it on my ADD. I’m constantly distracted by sparkly objects, glasses of wine, butterflies, dogs, pretty much anything. Right now, as I type, I’m cooking dinner, listening to records, and having a cheeky glass of red wine. In all honesty, I’m likely to burn dinner because while I can multi-task, I’m yet to perfect it.
But what I do know is that for small business owners and creative beasts, procrastination and distractions are like dementors to muggles. Kryptonite to Superman. Voldemort to HP. Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker. They suck the creativity and productivity out of us and leave us frustrated, overwhelmed, and curled in the foetal position, on the couch, binge watching Mare of Easttown (which incidentally is compelling viewing).
And the cycle just continues.
So, as I’m an expert procrastinator, I thought I’d share a few of my tips to help kick the viscous cycle of procrastination, feeling crappy, and distracting ourselves with shiny things to make us feel better.
1. How To Stop Procrastinating – Give yourself a deadline
Now, this works well. How do I know? Well, when I was studying for my degree, I was the worst procrastinator. Or does it make me the best procrastinator?
When I knew the due dates for my assignments, I’d mark the due dates in bold red type on my calendar. Those ugly red marks would loom out of my calendar, daring me each day to get cracking. Or at least, for the love of all things furry, make a damn start. But alas, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t start writing. I wasn’t one of those students who could smash out an assignment the night before. Nope. I started writing when it was right in my head, and not a second before. So, for three weeks before due date I’d flit between writing, work, and anything else I’d distract myself with. I’d write for an hour then distract myself with cleaning. And let me tell you, my house was immaculate whenever an assignment was due.
Even the dogs were clean.
But the point is, if you have a trigger and giving yourself a deadline works, do it! My fabulously talented photographer friend Claire enters photography awards each year. And it doesn’t matter when the submission date is announced or how each year we promise to be prepared, Claire always shoots, edits, prints, pulls her hair out and starves herself of sleep, two weeks before the deadline. And the woman doesn’t even drink coffee! But you know what? She always kicks arse at the awards. It’s how she works, and it works for her.
So, if you work better under pressure, just give yourself a deadline. Or better yet, get a friend to kick your butt and keep you on a deadline. When my friend Kylie wants me to write for her, she always asks me in her ‘you’ve been a naughty girl Alison’ voice.
‘Do I need to give you a deadline?’
I’m sure she’s wagging her finger at me too.
If my workload is heavy, sometimes I do need a deadline to stop procrastination from creeping in. Other times my mojo is strong, and I get shit done! But if you can’t keep yourself accountable, find a friend with a size 10 shoe to kick your butt into productive shape.
2. Reward yourself
If you’re procrastinating over a task, give yourself a little reward when it’s finished. For example, until I’ve finished this blog, I’m not going for my daily run. Perhaps you need to go grocery shopping or get your nails done. Or it could be something as simple as checking Facebook. Don’t allow yourself these privileges until your job is done. Setting small rewards for yourself will help to kick your procrastination habit and finish your mundane tasks.
3. Find your happy place
When you’re a creative person, it’s not always easy. Some days you just feel devoid of creativity, motivation and want to curl up on the couch. These are the days that are tough. So, find a way to clear the negative energy from your head. For me it’s exercise. I’ll go for a run as it always clears the dust bunnies from my head and often, I come up with new creative ideas. Or I’ll take my dogs for an extra walk. My dogs are one of the best cures for funks and slumps. Seriously, how can anyone be in a funk with these aborable faces.
4. How To Stop Procrastinating – Just do it
Just like Nike, grab a coffee, wine or whatever’s your poison and just begin. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Just make a start. Because soon enough, all those incremental 10 minutes add up and before you’ve watched all seasons of the Handmaid’s Tale, your menial task is done. Sometimes you just need to rip the band aid off and push through.
5. Organise a business/creative getaway
Ah, these are my favourite ways of getting things done. It could be a weekend away with a group of business friends or even just a working day at someone’s house. But the trick is to make sure you keep each other accountable. Set aside work hours and then break for lunch. Work for a few more hours then reward yourselves with afternoon cocktails or dinner. These types of sessions are fun and productive, so long as you keep on track.
6. Keep yourself accountable. Keep lists.
I love lists. They appease my OCD tendencies and it’s so satisfying ticking items off a list. If you find this technique works for you, go buy yourself some fancy notebooks from Typo and set yourself daily tasks. But be realistic about the number of tasks you can complete. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. Any progress, no matter how small, is progress. And don’t make a list of tasks the size of Santa’s naughty and nice list. Keep it simple, keep it small, and make it achievable.
After all, you want to feel good about yourself, right?
7. Use an app – How To Stop Procrastinating
8. Acknowledge your productive times and work your own hours
For example, it’s 7.30 on a Saturday night (sad I know) and I’m tapping away on my laptop while enjoying a bottle of wine. Why? I’m a night owl. I’ve always worked better at night and when I’m chilling with a glass of wine, I often get creative. One of my favourite uni assignments was a blog I wrote about our dog. I smashed it out at midnight and after a bottle of wine. My tutor LOVED my story and it received top marks. Why? Because I wrote it when my creative mojo was strong. So, whenever you feel productive or creative, jump on that feeling. It doesn’t matter if you’re tapping away at 3am in bed. Whenever the creative urge hits, YOU MUST POUNCE.
9. Turn off distractions
In the digital age it’s far too easy to get distracted. And one little distraction then leads to procrastination and the unproductive cycle continues. So, turn off the television, switch your phone to aeroplane mode, turn off Spotify and find yourself a quiet corner of the house to get cracking on those menial tasks.
Hate the thought of being cooped up inside? Why not grab your laptop and soak up some fresh air? The key to being productive and avoiding procrastination is to enjoy your work environment. I’ve been known to grab my laptop, hat, a mojito, and work by the pool. The joy of having your own business is you are the boss. So, create your own happy work environment that’s conducive to productivity.
Top tips on how to stop procrastinating
Well, there you have it. The ultimate tips on how to stop procrastinating from someone who is a champion procrastinator. It’s taken me 5 days to complete this blog, but today was my self-imposed deadline so there’s proof that tip works.
If you have any anti-procrastination tips to share, please add them to the comments below. Or have you tried any of my tips? Did they work for you?
Anyhoo, I’ve finished so I’m off to treat myself to a pedicure.
Yours in words, wisdom, and wine,